Suwanee resident champions new college poll

The light bulb flickered on about halfway through the 2005 Orange Bowl, when USC was in the midst of destroying Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game.

Suwanee resident Andy Curtin, who had been a sports agent in Indiana before moving to Gwinnett County, could only shake his head as the Trojans scored another touchdown over the outmanned Sooners. He thought about the nation's other undefeated team, the Auburn Tigers, and how much closer the national title game would have been if USC had run up against them instead.

"I was watching that game and I thought, 'What is wrong with the system?'" Curtin said. "Well, with the BCS at the time, it consisted of computers, the coaches poll and the AP poll. Obviously, coaches know more about football than writers do, but the problem with the coaches is they don't get to see any of the games. They're coaching their own team, getting ready for the next game."

So Curtin came up with an idea.

Instead of asking current coaches - who just don't have the time or the inclination to pay attention to what's happening in the rest of the country - to vote on teams they don't see play, why not get retired coaches, Hall-of-Fame coaches that really know football, to weigh in with rankings of their own?

Thus, in the summer of 2005, the Master Coaches Poll was born.

There are 17 voters in the Master Coaches Poll. And you might recognize the names.

Vince Dooley, Pat Dye, Bo Schembechler, John Cooper, Gene Stallings, Hayden Fry and John Robinson are just a few of the legendary coaches who take part in the weekly poll, which Curtin thinks would add some serious credibility to the always-controversial BCS formula.

And this isn't like the current coaches' poll or the AP poll either. These guys not only watch the games - on DVDs sent to them by Curtin and his business partner Pete Wolek - and rank the teams, they give their opinions on why they voted a certain way.

Take for instance this quote from Vince Dooley, in the poll's press release, following Louisville's win over West Virginia two weeks ago. While the other polls and the BCS had the Cardinals at No. 3 after the nationally televised win, the Master Coaches had them at No. 4.

"I have great admiration for Louisville's offense, which is very imaginative and has speed to boot," Dooley said. "But I don't think they have enough outstanding defensive personnel to play with the top one-loss teams in the country."

Former Virginia coach George Welsh agreed with Dooley.

"In my opinion, Louisville has not shown a championship defense thus far," Welsh said. "If they played Florida's schedule, I don't think they would be undefeated."

In fact, Dooley and Welsh were proved prophetic the very next game as Louisville gave up 21 unanswered points in a loss to Rutgers.

"These guys are the sharpest guys when it comes to football," Curtin said. "It's not like they just flipped the switch and then forgot everything the learned. And that's one reason why a lot of them wanted to be in this, it still gives them a meaningful connection with the game."

Curtin wants it to become even more meaningful. He wants the Master Coaches Poll to be one of the components the BCS uses to determine the national championship game.

He points to the current system and just how flawed it is when he makes his argument.

"The computers are a complete joke," Curtin said. "They have Rutgers at No. 2 in the nation in the computer polls. They are ahead of Ohio State this week (the Buckeyes are ranked third by the computers, and Michigan is No. 1). It's just ludicrous."

Plus, for the first time since the inception of the BCS, the AP poll is not being used as a component in the rankings. Instead, the Harris Poll - which consists of former players, coaches and administrators - is used for 33.3 percent of the final tally, along with the computer rankings and the USA Today coaches' poll.

There are 114 panelists for the Harris Poll. Some of the names you might recognize. Most of them you won't. Either way, Curtin argues, they certainly don't have the pedigrees and knowledge of the Master Coaches pollsters, who combined for 3,000-plus wins on the football field.

"They have no accountability," Curtin said of the Harris pollsters. "What is going to keep those guys from mailing it in? All they are going to do is look at the scores and then rank their teams based on the scores.

"Our guys actually sit down and watch the games and break it down. They don't just rank Ohio State No. 1, they tell you why they ranked Ohio State No. 1."

Or why they ranked Rutgers No. 11, which is what they did this week - a far cry from the No. 2 spot the computers gave the Scarlet Knights.

"Rutgers deserves a lot of credit for shutting down that Louisville offense and coming back to win that game," said former Indiana and Colorado coach Bill Mallory in the poll's weekly press release. "We'll see how good Rutgers is when they play at West Virginia."

Curtin has been in ongoing talks with BCS chairman Mike Slive about incorporating the second-year poll into the rankings formula. That is his ultimate goal. As of now, it's still unachieved.

But as the public becomes more and more aware of the poll and the Web site (www.mcspoll.com), and as the BCS continues to struggle with computer problems (Rutgers somehow being ranked ahead of the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country), he thinks it might just be a matter of time before his group of legendary voters - 11 of the 17 are in the College Football Hall of Fame - will be back in the national spotlight, again playing a role in which two teams play for the national title.

"Our purpose right now is to get the two best teams in the nation playing each other at the end of the season," Curtin said. "That's what we're aiming for."